More Stairs and Other Stuff

This past weekend was another brilliant example of the mid-atlantic winter weather pattern that makes it difficult to forcast here. Saturday we had some decent sub-zero weather, making it easy to park on-site, but quite frigid to work. Late Saturday it began to warm to just above freezing and then began to sleet. Yummy. By Sunday the site was a mish-mash of freezing rain and mud and puddles:) That didn’t deter us, however, from accomplishing a few things at Hearthwood…


Saturday morning I trekked out to the site to finish digging our electrical trench which my parents began this past week. You see, we convinced NOVEC to run the “last mile”, from the pole to our house, in an underground conduit. This makes bringing the line into the house a much easier prospect, as well as improving the view. Too bad we couldn’t get the whole thing underground.
Now, “digging the trench” is something no-one would propose to do with their own two hands, it being about a foot wide and 30-45 inches deep. Nope, we use our neighbor’s back-hoe (Mike Connell) which is on indefinite loan to my parents.
I fired up the “Valdeez” (it has a hydraulic fluid incontinence problem) and let it idle for a few minutes to warm up, after priming the engine with a spray of ether from the can. Then, with my “mad bomber” earflaps down and tied beneath my chin, I set off for Hearthwood. About 10 feet later, the machine came to a dead stop, engine completely dead. Brilliant.
I spent the next hour attempting to start it, charger hooked up to it on the “200 amp start” setting. No amount of cranking was getting this hunk moving, and it was squarely blocking my sister’s VW into the garage. I decided to give up and do some framing. I received a sharp reprimand later, when Laura attempted to leave for work:)
I framed out one of the odd sections of our second floor, where the studs are all different lengths because they hit the ceiling framing on angle. Slow work, and I went “home” to the Phillipsons for some of Bob’s turkey soup and a stout.
After lunch I toddled back to Hearthwood and caught my manager, Julian, and his girlfriend Kim, relocating squirrells from their attic to our fair woods. I gave them the tour; I always enjoy giving the tour.
I finished out framing the section I was working on previously, as well as got the vertical rise between the first and second floors, so I could work out the stair measurements that evening. Of course, with a baby one never really gets to do what one thinks one has time for, so I skipped the stair thing and we just had time to venture forth into the winter weather and visit our friends Noah and Lauren (should we say “The Klemms” now because they have Molly and Will? Hmm) in Leesburg. We did not let the stray, over-confident SUV drivers, deter us from having a bowl of lentil stew with friends. And of course I enjoyed having tea with Molly. Peppermint:)
The following morning, rain tapping the roof, I worked out the stair measurements over a cup of coffee and some french toast that Kathy made. (despite the rigor of living with in-laws, I really will miss being pampered with food and coffee. I say I’m Kathy’s “remora”, for those of you familiar with sharks)
110 inches rise, divided by 15 risers equals 7.333 inches per riser. That doesn’t work out well on a tape measure. Ok, that’s roughly 21/64ths or 11/32nds or 6/16ths or 3/8ths. It adds about 2/3 inch to our rise, to make up for overall, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to measure. 14 treads, ten inches deep. Works.
I headed off to home depot for 1x 8’s (which are actually 7 & 1/4″-stupid lumber industry saving money on wood) and 1x 12’s (again, 11″ here). Then I immediately went back to my parents’ and met up with Bob. I was able to start up the back hoe, and Bob drove it over to Hearthwood; I led in our truck.

I finished digging the trench for the electrical conduit, while Bob cleaned up inside to prepare for some framing, unloading the “one-by’s” from my truck.
As I was finishing, Jean drove up to make our 12pm appointment; a meeting with Jake’s new employer, a heating and AC company. Jake and his employer, Ken, drove up a short while later, and we had a great discussion about what they had thought out for our HVAC requirements. Ken had thought out the process pretty thoroughly, so we decided to contract the job out to him. They can start this week!
After I returned the back hoe to my parents’ house, I walked back and Bob and I started the second floor stairs in earnest. We blocked up the place where the head of the stringers would attach, and added a joist to the foot. With awesome speed compared to the last set we did, I laid out the stringer cuts, while Bob cut them. He also made all the cuts for the treads and risers, while I measured and attached each stringer to the second floor.
Kathy brought out warm veggie soup for lunch, and along with some chocolate-filled oreos, we were renewed in strength and vigor.
We were making good time, so with the lights on and the generator running, we laid down all the treads, steadied the entire rig, leveled it and shored it up to the framing of the house. We finally called it a night around 6pm with a fully-functional set of stairs.
This week we also have a lot going on. Today, Jean is out (CORRECTION!) shoveling gravel dust by hand in sub-freezing wind chill, covering the bottom of the trench in rock dust to prepare for the electrical conduit. Later this week (tomorrow!), Todd, our electrician, will be out to hook up our electrical meter, install the panel box, and a couple of “dummy” circuits to serve as a temporary electrical hookup. After a NOVEC inspection and county inspection, we should have power on site so we don’t have to run the generator!!
Ken and Co. should be starting work on our ducts this week as well, hopefully allowing us to have an HVAC system by Februaryish.
We’re also hoping Nicholas Chimney will be reachable this week, and that we can do our stove and pipe installation with their supervision next week, when I’m taking the whole week off.
Whew! Ok. For those of you who stayed with us through this entry so far, we’d love to have you out next weekend for more internal framing. There is a lot we still need to accomplish, especially a lot of one and two-person jobs. We have three or four insulated dickie suits (you know, the kind you see your mechanic wear), but wear flannel or fleece-lined pants and a few layers anyway. See you ’round!